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'Criminal Minds' Most Dramatic Seasons

by Hannah Elliott 2 years ago in review

Seasons 1-14 Reviewed

'Criminal Minds' Most Dramatic Seasons

Throughout the, now 14, seasons of Criminal Minds, there have been certain seasons that just capture your attention more than others, sorry season 14. Every season has a dramatic ending of course, if not why would people want to tune in for the next season. But I am talking about serious drama throughout the entire season. Certain seasons have a continuous plot, or sub plot, behind the episodes that made them more suspenseful to watch. Either just the criminals of the episodes were more intense, or the plot line throughout the season was better, everyone has their favorite ranking of a season.

#14: Season 14

It is awful to say, but this latest season of Criminal Minds really shows why the next season will be the last. It was just not exciting to watch for someone who has been a fan since the beginning; to not really be looking forward to that week's episode, as I once was in the past seasons, was difficult. The beginning episodes were great, especially the lead over from the season 13 season finale, but then the episodes started to slack, for lack of a better term. The only real plot line that stood out was in two episodes. One where they linked it all the way back from season 4 with the unsub who was cutting out woman's hearts, and using his own son to capture them. And the other with JJ finding out what really happened to her sister! The most exciting part of the season was finding out that Rossi was getting married again, there were no unsubs that came into more than one episode, or a subplot that had a continuing line throughout the season like the Replicator in Season 8. It just was not what you wanted to see in a season, especially the fact that it was a shorter season, being 15 episodes rather than 20-22, and now being the second to last season.

#13: Season 1

It is not that this season was bad, it captured our attention, and drew us in, but in comparing it with later seasons it is just not the greatest. Its job was to draw you in, and create a backstory, and make you want more. Obviously this was accomplished, as there have been 14 additional seasons since. In this it was not about the dramatic episodes, or the most thrilling plots, the first season, like in all shows, is really about developing the characters in their roles, laying the foundation for the seasons to follow as well as just getting the fans into the show. In this too, not all the characters (cough Ell) were the best, and many showed that they still had a lot of room to grow. There were some great episodes nonetheless! The main focus here was to help us get a better background, and be informed about behavioral science; many of the episodes would drag out the terminology, so that we would better understand what they meant. This is not to say the episodes were not up to par with later seasons, they were just less complex than what the show's standard became. It really was the season needed to make way for the great seasons to come from it.

#12: Season 2

Now this season, gave us more of the insanity and complexity that we really wanted. Also, we got the first glimpse of truly complex, evil unsubs, such as Frank. As we went through season 1, the unsubs definitely got more complex, and then from episode 9 of this season the flip was switched; Frank became known to us, the multi-personality in the Tobias character(s), having a woman killer (unlike the one as in season 1 who burnt people), having real-life based themes in the episodes. What came into this season were two major things:

  1. The worst character in the show left (Ell)
  2. The true dynamic of what the show could be was shown.

Both of these, gave the show a more refreshed feel, everyone was becoming more of a team, and things were more complex with the characters as well. Gideon had lost a friend/lover, Morgan's past was revealed and Reid was kidnapped and tortured; it made the show more real where in the first season the background of most of the characters was unknown. There were just things about it that, quite simply, was better than season 1, but with everything being so new, it still was not as great as later seasons.

#11: Season 3

This season started off weird, namely being that it had a character leave in the first few episodes. Normally, when a character leaves, it's in the middle, or the end, of a season. I cannot think of another show that had someone leave at the start. It was heartbreaking! Gideon leaving, and knowing there was going to be a replacement; I did not think that the show would be as good afterwards. Enter David Rossi. How they played his character in was BRILLIANT! They made it, so he was a little bit snobbish since he was the pro and started the BAU, and they made the rest of the team (minus Hotch) very skeptic of him. It was great, because it mimicked what goes on in real life. The episodes in the this season started off with a bang as well! Going straight to a satanic killer, and then Garica getting shot! None of this anyone saw coming; it was too good. There were a few episodes that were quite lackluster, like "True Night" (I cannot stand that one) as well as "The Crossing." "The Crossing" would have been a good episode, but there was one already so similar that happened in the season earlier, so this one just was not as thrilling. The ending of the season gave us something new as well. It was the first time that the season finale left us at a cliff hanger. The bomb went off, and no one knew what had happened, who was near the car, or anything. It was torture waiting for season 4! Some may think this season was ranked low, but I believe that this was the turning point for Criminal Minds.

#10: Season 13

This season was not bad, just almost too much had happened. There was Reid who was reinstated with his condition, there was yet another new team member, Garcia was going through a hard time at the start, and then having her reunite with her step-brother, to deal with the parole hearing of the drunk driver who killed her parents. It was almost too much. And then the whole incident with the Assistant Director, which took up most of the season, and her disbanding the team: suspending Prentiss, reassigning Garcia, Reid not working cause of the Prentiss ordeal, and then leading the team, picking what cases they work; it was too much. I think if they introduced the drama with Assistant Director Barnes to the end of the season, leading it into season 14, both of these seasons would have thrived! The episodes themselves are not what place this season so low on the list. The episodes were quite great actually, they were very captivating and fresh in what the unsub was doing, which made for a great season. Even the clown episode, while utterly creepy and not appreciated that they had to use clowns, was great and entertaining! It was all the background noise, let's say, that really took away from the episodes themselves. It was the most behind the scenes work any season had, and it made for exciting TV, yes, but also almost an information overload!

#9 Season 9

This is where ranking the seasons gets difficult. Truthfully, though seasons 1-3 were still good in their own way, from ranking #9 to the top is without a doubt the best of the best from the show. Though season 9 was good, it had a lot of pressure following season 8, which had the Replicator backstory. In order for it to come off strong, the first three episodes needed something more. I loved how in the first two they were about twins, and not knowing who the killer was of the two; but it just was not as thrilling or intriguing as I wanted it to be. The third episode, while new and filled with very real-life issues I can only imagine, it was very all over the place, and slow-moving. For the issue it was trying to get across, I understand that this was more factual, but for a TV show, they needed to amp it up a tad. That being said, the season really turned it around for me starting at episode six, but making the full swing at episode eight. The one thing I loved about this season was how they brought back the past. Hotch's injuries from his attack with Foyet put him in the hospital having visions, Garcia having to confront her old lover, and old hacker life to help the team, Rossi being put back in touch with his old Marine Sergeant again. The most dramatic one was fitting for episode 200, and that is when we finally got answers for why JJ briefly left the BAU. This episode was amazing! Ending in a wedding, bringing Prentiss back to help. Easily in the top 10 of the best episodes. The ending to this was also brilliant, ending the episode with not one, but two of the favourite agents being shot, and not knowing what happened for a week was the right level of suspense. "Demons" was the better of the two-part ending, but it had to be, "Angels" was the build up where it explained everything, and then "Demons" was the action. Either way the second half of this season was excellent.

#8: Season 7

This season was a little more tame in comparison to Seasons 5 and 6, tame meaning there was no underlying plot involving one of the cast. However, the beginning of the season was a roller coaster of emotions. Namely, finding out that Prentiss is alive, and is rejoining the team. To this day that is still one of the biggest shocks of the show. How the team reacted when she first came back I believe was really important, because the people they were closest with lied to them about it, putting them through a really tough emotional state for nothing really. Another thing, besides the episodes, it was kinda nice seeing Hotch meet another woman; he deserves that! The episodes themselves, were difficult to rank, whereas some of them were genius, especially "Profiling 101," others were just not up to snuff really, it seemed to bring the show back to earlier seasons, where it was a little too simplistic, or a little gimmicky really. "Snake Eyes," The Bittersweet Science," "Heathridge Manor," and "Closing Time" just made this season less of the amazing power we saw in others. "Profiling 101," "The Company," and a "Thin Line" were all just so above what was expected, and so new compared to any other episode. I thought that the finale was incredible as well. I really like how they changed it up, and did not leave the second part to the new season. Having it go from a robbery, to then having JJ's family involved, and in danger, was brilliant; seeing her as a kick ass mom was everything! Also, Prentiss coming and going is getting really old.

#7: Season 4

This season had its ups and downs. There were some episodes, "Minimal Loss," "Masterpiece," "Bloodline," "Paradise," and "Omnivore," that were brilliant. They drew us in, they were exciting from start to finish, and they were all something so new for the show. Others, like "Normal," "Demonology," "Roadkill," and "Pleasure is my Business," were just not up to par. There was nothing terribly exciting about the story line in these episodes. "Omnivore" was one of the best of the season, because it gave us one of the best story lines in the show, and set up for season five, which was great. Showing the back story into the Reaper who is one of the most iconic unsubs on the show (see my article on Criminal Minds' Most Memorable Killers for the others). Now the two part season finale of this season was amazing. It, at that time, was the most heartwrenching finale there could have been. The fact that it was so terrible, and bone chilling, made it great. The most intense and brutal moment of the entire two episodes was when they were pulling shoes out of that wooden box... 89 pairs of shoes, of people who were murdered.. it is awful to even think about it. AND THEN to top it off when Hotch gets back to his apartment, the Reaper is there, and the final shot is literally a shot being fired right above Hotch's shoulder. Could not be a more dramatic lead up to season five, the first of the most epic seasons in Criminal Minds history!

#6: Season 10

My favorite part of this season was how current the themes were! They had one about computer hacking into airplanes, people with mental disorders thinking they have a medical issue when they don't, one all about social media, they dealt with the 50 Shades of Grey craze, and finally they dealt with the scares of meeting random people online. It was refreshing, because you could relate to these themes, they are happening today in the world. The new themes made the season so much more interesting to watch, also with the newest member of the team it was a nice transition. Though, she was one I was glad to only have around for one season, she was a great character, but there was a feeling that she wasn't quite right for the team.The biggest part of this that hurt was the "Nelson's Sparrow" episode only because any dream of Gideon coming back to the show was squashed with his death. That episode was the most heartbreaking episode since Hotch's wife's tragic death at the hands of Foyet. It truly brought a different level of emotion to the season, because you knew he was gone, but you hoped there was a slight chance he would return, and now that was gone. To see Reid's reaction to it all, as Gideon was like a father figure to him. Also, the season brought us one of the best unsubs since Foyet in Mr. Scratch! It is something new and unseen before, and why did it have to involve Hotch again? Seriously! The season finale I will say was one of the best ones, as there was real-life scare to it. Nowadays, everyone is meeting each other online, and in all honesty it is not the safest. You do not really know who you are going to meet, because they can hide behind fake photos, like what happened in the episode. What puts this season so high up on the list is the fact that it was so real; the episodes could have been things we saw in the news, which was very different from past episodes, where the plots were almost unimaginable.

#5: Season 5

Oh, how the first half of this season played with our hearts until episode 100. The first half built up the entire saga with the Reaper. How all the episodes had an undertone of this explosion that we all knew was going to happen. The crazy thing was that no one knew how good/sad it was going to be. For Hotch's ex-wife to be killed, because Hotch would not stop hunting the Reaper was brutal, and the lead up to that final shot made us all bawl our eyes out while watching. What made it even more dramatic was that Jack was hiding the entire time, to think that if Hotch had not killed the man he would have killed innocent little Jack. The one thing I found after that episode was that a lot of the remaining episodes had to deal with families, 7/14 had some sort of family connection to it. Seemed a little strange considering that Hotch just lost a part of his. Oh, and all the episodes in this season were quite great actually, not one, I would say, is a skip worthy moment. It was the first well-put-together episode where everything made sense. Each episode felt like there was a purpose, and that it was not filler in any way. The season finale of this also was great! The actor playing the unsub did such a poetic job with the character, and the ending was just as climatic as season three where they had another split finale, but it was different, because you did not know if it would be the start of season 6 or if they would pick it up later so the suspense was incredible!

#4: Season 6

Now following season five would seem to be impossible, but season six did the job! It starts off with the ending to season five's intense finale, then JJ is forced to leave with no real reasoning, or lead up, it was just mentioned and then it happens! No other season has started off quite so dramatic. Watching the episodes without JJ were tough for sure, but it was slightly easier, as the content of the episodes were so great. Also, I loved how Garcia tried to turn 'normal' in order to do both her and JJ jobs, very quiet moment for sure! Then we get halfway through the season, and we are thrown for a loop! Prentiss' past comes back to haunt her for what turns into six amazing episodes uncovering her past, and we were not ready for any of that at all! All of this build up to these episodes were great, the episodes after were interesting, because we lost two staple characters during this season, and one was added (Ashley Seaver), so the team dynamic was different, to say the least. It felt smaller, probably cause it was, and we also lost two important females to the team. It really showed towards the end of the season, that the team was missing at least one more female role. Hence why the best part of the season finale was finding out JJ was returning. If you want more details just watch the season!

#3: Season 8

OH THIS SEASON WAS SO GOOD. It properly introduced a new character in Blake, with Garcia being all snarky, which would happen considering how close the team is, being the same core group since season three. It showed that Blake needed to earn the trust of the group, part of why the other new characters joining the team in later seasons were weird. The episodes in this season were great. They were fresh ideas, where the killers had more flare and uniqueness to their kills, instead of just a typical stab 30 times ammo. I mean the one where he dislocates all their joints to turn them into Marionette Dolls was thinking outside the box to say the least! Then on top of it all was the "Zugzwang" episode. One, it was adorable that Reid had found someone that he is in love with, it is just so cute. But then an episode where he had to save her, and ultimately had her killed right in front of him; I think all hearts broke that episode. And if an episode like that wasn't enough, it had the entire backstory of the Replicator, where someone was copying the murders in cases that they had already solved. It lead to what I think is one of the best finales of all time. Not only was it a two part finale, but it had non-stop excitement, and tears. As much as no one was a real fan of Strauss, you appreciated her a little more after season three when she tried to fire Hotch, her death was the OMG moment of the first part of the finale for sure. Then finding out that it was all connected to when Blake, and her team, was thrown under the bus on the Amerithrax case way back in the day, was poetic justice for sure. And Rossi having the role he did was amazing. Just go watch the season!

#2: Season 12

This season was nothing I think anyone of us true Criminal Minds fans that is, would have imagined happening. Dr. Spencer Reid, the sweetest, most innocent man in the show, is getting locked up in jail! Nothing else that happened this season mattered! REID IS LOCKED UP, CONVICTED IN JAIL! Like the last thing in the world that you would think would happen, happened, especially considering that Morgan just left the show last season. Pulling at all the fan girls' heart strings here. It was not fair. Though he was not in jail the entire time, the entire season was about him and his mother, who was getting worse with Dementia. Also, Hotch was gone, being in protection, after Mr. Scratch made a threat on his and Jack's lives. Too much to handle in the season, good Lord! The other episodes in the season were also great, especially "Profiling 202." I thought it was genius to tie that back in after season seven's "Profiling 101" gave us the background story into this strange relationship between Rossi and Yates. How they played the Reid issue, I thought was great; having the team still go out and do their job, but on the side help Reid as much as they could. The final episodes involving the team searching for Reid's mom and eventually leading to Reid being released from prison, made the season suspenseful until the last second. How the season came to an end was brilliant, bringing back a character from season 3, having the last hitman they put away in season 11 be the mastermind behind it all, instead of who the team thought. It was some of the best writing the show has had! Just an unbelievable season.

#1: Season 11

THIS SEASON WAS EVERYTHING! The top five season's are, without a doubt, all amazing, but this was something we had never seen before, and for it to be all about Derek and Garcia, and the hitman network! There was no such thing as enough! To give this season any lower ranking just did not seem right. To start, the season began with Garcia being in danger when the team goes after a hitman group called the Dirty Dozen, after the team captures one of the members. This also brings in Tara Lewis, who is such an amazing fit I wish she joined sooner! Anyways, poor Garcia has to end up living at the BAU to keep her safe, while the team hunts down the other members of the group, which brings us to the half way point of the season, where they take down the final member of the hitman group. And above all, it was Reid who tricks the member of the group. It was great! Then the second half of the season was equally as exciting! For three episodes the fate of Derek Morgan, Savannah, and their babies, was all up in the air. In Criminal Minds history the episode titled "Derek," was the most intense and torturous moment that a member of the team has ever gone through, he was tortured, burnt, drugged, stabbed, and then had to gut a man to get himself out of trouble. And then, they went after his pregnant fiancé, and put their baby at risk. It was awful to see him leave, but I mean at the end of the day it all made sense. Oh and talk about leaving the season in a cliff hanger, with Hotch being arrested for something it turned out that Mr. Scratch was a part of. It was the season of all seasons.

With the show coming to an end, it is quite sad, because it was such a great show. The only thing I would wish for is that the last season be everything we know the show is capable of delivering, and more. They need for it all to be put to an end in an acceptable way, that does the show justice.

Hannah Elliott
Hannah Elliott
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Hannah Elliott

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